bondy
A.A. Bondy
American Hearts


Superchunk
Leaves in the Gutter

raspberries
Glossary
For What I Don't Become


86x108_thick_main_malcolm
The Thick of It
BBC America



Saddest Ghost Lamp

Thursday, March 31, 2005

With All this Fuss, It Better Be One Damn Good Panel

James Wolcott writes the first sensible thing yet about that infernal National Press Club panel:
I'm also perturbed by the choice of Wonkette to "panel," to use a verb coined by the staff of the old Tonight show. Perturbed not because Wonkette is a poor selection to represent liberal bloggers, though several dozen apter candidates leap to mind, but because she's supposed to be writing a novel. A novel is a demanding mistress, moody, fickle. She demands your three-quarter attention every waking hour, and at night needs rest so that the unconscious get its beauty sleep to fuel the working day's creative breakthroughs (such as changing the heroine's name from Conchita to Consuella). You can't pay proper respect to the novel if you're off paneling every time a conference puts up a long table and several pitchers of ice water. In Wonkette's best interests, which I hold dear, I beg her to get off this crazed carousel of panel discussions intended to fill the fallow hours of C-SPAN 2
I second the motion, Ana. We want that novel. (No pressure--no wait, I mean lots of pressure!)

Speaking of Wonkette, another suddenly famous blogger has made use of a photograph from my wedding to illustrate a post about her:

amc

I'm not sure how I feel about that--in fact I'm kind of confused as to where he got it. Good picture though. But anyway, if some guy I've never met can publish pictures of my wedding on the Internets, then by Golly so can I:


That's my favorite.

UPDATE: My wife prefers this one:

Anti-Semitic Much?


Alright, I know NRO is pro-Wolfie, and David Frum, author of the Wolfowitz story, is Jewish. But jeez, if you're gonna slap the word "Banker" on a headshot of an oft-reviled Jew, could you at least have the decency to not put him next to the Pope?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Gotta Love that John Ass Over at the Chicago Tribune

Kass! I mean Kass. Sorry John, sometimes I absent-mindedly misspell people's names. Good thing I'm not a big-time city newspaper columnist like you, otherwise that could be really embarrassing. Especially if I were to misspell, say the name of a reporter at the very same paper I work for. Whose name--I guess they call it a byline in the business--was published at the top of the very story I was writing about.

I know it can be tough to keep all those balls in the air as a columnist, John, with that deadline always bearing down on you, and all those columns to pump out about dogs, your Christianity, and stories that other Chicago Tribune reporters have already written. But for the record, Mark Caro's name is M-A-R-K C-A-R-O. As opposed to what you wrote:
"Maybe we ought to have Rick's liver for a little treat. It's certainly fat enough," Hannibal Trotter said, quite bitterly, in a fascinating front-page story written by entertainment reporter Marc Caro.
I can't wait for the correction.

UPDATE: They fixed it online.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Nepotism at Work

Hugh Hewitt, the endearingly wrong blogger triumphalist extraordinaire and bright spot of reason, candor, and humor in the vast, foul firmament of talk-radio--with whom I have disgreed in the past, even though he was no doubt unaware that said disagreement was taking place--has twice done me right, with both a nice link on his massively powerful blog and a mention on his radio show.

I've been quite pleased with how this whole blog thing has developed for me so far, and it's really an honor to be picked, almost at random, it seems, from out of the blog-ether and held up by no less a respected authority than Hugh Hewitt as a worthy destination for people who seek blogginess. But the crazy thing is--and you're gonna freak, Hugh--we actually have a connection of sorts! My Dad is actually pretty good friends with Hugh Hewitt. How crazy is that? Life's funny sometimes.

Thanks for the mentions, Hugh. Your new book, Blog is on my reading list, and once I have read it, I shall attempt to demolish its blog-addled arguments about the power of blogs on this here blog and draw you into a nice little blog-fight. Until then, a glance below and to the right of this post will confirm that you, Sir, have been blogrolled on Reference Tone. I just hope your servers are prepared for the avalanche of traffic that will undoubtedly ensue.

David Brooks--Switch Hitter?

I haven't read David Brooks' column--movingly headlined "Whose Team Am I On?"--yet this morning, but I wanted to take a minute anyway to applaud him for bravely and openly addressing issues of sexual confusion in his column. We support you, David, no matter whose team you choose.

UPDATE: Wait a minute! Now I'm the one who's confused! Is baseball some kind of metaphor or something? Yes. Yes it is. Otherwise, there's no way to explain lines like:

"Already I feel the tug, the love that dare not speak its name."

"In the midst of this spiritual crisis I have begun to ask the fundamental question."

"It is a bond forged during a lifelong string of shared emotions...."

"It would be to abandon a string of formative experiences, a core of my identity. It would send me off on a life of phoniness and self-alienation."

"Perhaps the young players Jose Reyes and David Wright will rekindle the flame...."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Err America

I know, I know, it's an overused pun. But in this case it's an apt summary of my first story for the Los Angeles Times, and in fact my first completed work of journalism as a freelancer since I quit the Tribune. (Whew!)

The story's on "Left of the Dial," a documentary showing the utter chaos that afflicted Air America Radio during its first months on the air, when co-founder Evan Cohen was found not to have invested all the money that his co-investors thought he had. Cohen got the boot, and staffers got bouncing paychecks. It's a great film (for the record, I started this story long before Matt Drudge's "exclusive," wherein he watched a publicity screener of the movie and recounted what he saw), and reminded me a lot of "Lost in La Mancha," the doc about Terry Gilliam's ill-fated attempts to make a film based on "Don Quixote." What was supposed to be a pretty routine making-of turned into a terrifying account of woe and suffering. My only complaint is that Patrick Farrelly and Kate O'Callaghan, the delightful Irish husband-and-wife team that made the movie, couldn't afford to clear the Replacements tune that is the film's namesake.

I covered Air America for the Chicago Tribune during the launch, and broke the news of Cohen's ouster--the Drudge Report flash announcing that they'd bounced checks to the owner of their Los Angeles and Chicago stations, which is featured prominently in the film as staffers read it in the Air America offices, was an advance account of my story in the Trib. I had no idea at the time that there were cameras rolling inside as I was feverishly trying to figure out what the hell was going on at the network. As soon as I heard about the movie I bothered Patrick incessantly for a copy, thinking all would finally be revealed to me; the irony is that, as the film shows, no one inside the network had a clue what was going on either.

Aside from the tension and misery, it's also a moving character portrait of Randi Rhodes, a classically insecure entertainer who was the only person at Air America who knew the slightest thing about radio--in fact she knew everything there is to know about radio--and had to stand in the glare of Al Franken's star power. Watching Randi's face when she's told that Franken and others are rehearsing live radio before the launch--How do you rehearse radio?--is priceless. Marc Maron is also prominently, and hilariously, featured. He's a cheerfully self-obsessed nebishy kind of guy. His best line, as he's struggling to put together his morning show: "In my head it would be called Air Marc and no one would really work. Everyone would just sort of hang out and talk about me for a couple hours, and then we'd all go eat and have a day."

Here's the story:

"Air America's difficult birth, caught on film"

The movie premieres at 8 p.m., 7 p.m. central, on HBO on March 31--Air America's one-year anniversary.

Scotch and Vinegar

The maddeningly correct Christopher Hitchens says everything there is to say:
I think it is obscene that she is held in absentia to exert power from beyond the grave. As for the idea that this assumed power can be arrogantly ventriloquized by clerical demagogues and self-appointed witch doctors, one quivers at the sheer indecency of the thing. The end of the brain, or the replacement of the brain by a liquefied and shrunken void, is ... if not the absolute end of "life," the unarguable conclusion of human life. It disqualifies the victim from any further say in human affairs. Tragic, perhaps, unless you believe in a better life to come (as, oddly enough, the parents of this now non-human entity claim that they do).

Meanwhile, the rest of us also have lives to live.

I'm sure it would sound even truer spoken with a slurreed British accent.


Stop, Rick--You're Making Me Hungry

The New York Times' Rick Lyman offers a recipe for really bad writing and nutjob bouillabaisse in one fell swoop. Describing the dregs left behind in Schiavo-ville on Easter Sunday:
In numbers, they were not as great on Easter as they were on the previous three days, when the legal and public relations battle came to its bitter climax. But like soup simmered for hours, what remains is a concentrated stock of the angriest and most devoted, the prayerful and the publicity hungry.

Don't forget to periodically skim the prayerful off the top, otherwise it can get cloudy. Serve in warmed bowls; garnish with a lock of Elian Gonzalez's hair.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Reference Tone Gets a Shout-out in Newsfortnight!

No, no, I mean Newsweek, silly. What kind of idiot gets the name of a publication wrong anyway?

Well, it only took me a couple of weeks at this blogging thing to get mentioned in Newsweek, which makes me kind of sad for the magazine, actually. But the bastards got my name wrong.

They picked up Al Franken's quote to me about Jerry Springer from this post in this week's Perspectives, that little front-of-the-book page of cute quotes and cartoons that makes for prime toilet reading. But they sourced it to Referencepoint.com, whatever the hell that is. I picked a direct, forceful, unambiguous, memorable name like Reference Tone--one that does not at all inspire my wife, relatives, friends, and random correspondents to ask questions like, What's a reference tone? Or, What do you mean by calling this thing Reference Tone?--for a reason, dammit, and they still managed to screw it up.

Here's the online version, in all its erroneous glory.

I'm gonna tell Hugh Hewitt, and hopefully he'll add it to his master list of reasons to lynch the mainstream media and all who conspire with it.

The Pedantic Viewer, Installment One

I've always thought the rumors of "Arrested Development's" imminent demise, prompted by Gail Berman's departure from Fox to Paramount, were a little overheated. Berman protected the show as much as she could, but her successor, former F/X chief Peter Liguori, certainly knows the importance of keeping a network propped up by critically beloved shows that no one watches. Sure, "The Shield" does good cable numbers, but "Rescue Me"? If Liguori kept that alive for the sake of the critics, then I think Jason Bateman and Co. are safe for another season.

But then again, quality seems to be slipping. Take last night's oddly paced episode. Aside from some weird editing, there were two really bad dubs over lines by David Cross. It reminded me of the Itchy and Scratchy episode where Roger Meyers Jr. dispatched Poochie, voiced by Homer Simpson, to a faraway planet in post-production.

I've grabbed audio files because I'm obsessive and have nothing better to do with my Sunday evenings. In the first, that's Cross screaming at Ted. Listen to the lines, "And that's how you keep out unwanted visitors. Although, if I may"--I swear that's not Cross at all. And if it is, he's got a cold or something that he didn't have when he shot the scene.

In the second clip, it's the lines, "Michael, this is what we talked about. I'm sure they'll do just fine without you." If it is Cross, it's a really bad job dubbing. Sounds like Donald Trump in the board room, with every word cut together from a different conversation.

I don't have the technology to grab video, but obviously during the above-mentioned lines the camera had cut away to reaction shots, so you couldn't see Cross' face.

In acknowledgement of how absurdly Worst-Episode-Ever-esque the foregoing is, I've decided that it will be the first installment of an irregular featured called The Pedantic Viewer. Please make Reference Tone your home for small-minded criticism.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Hug Your Television

Let's hear it for Richard Hell, a guy about whom I've never had much to say--never read his books, and, heretically, never really got into Television (I always confuse them with Wire for some reason).

But this annotated Bookslut interview makes me want to marry him. The interviewer, an editorial assistant at Poetry magazine, sent Hell a transcript of the Q and A, along with an introduction, for his review. Hell didn't like the intro, and sent it back annotated, a sample of which appears below (the bold is from the intro; below it is Hell's response).

As a poet now, Richard Hell is perhaps not as good as he could have been had he not spent upwards of twenty years playing music.

Fuck you. If you want to say something like that, say it to my face. You don't hear me making claims about how "good" my poetry is, but who the fuck do you think you are? All this writing of yours is presented as if you're a person called upon to make judgments from some position of earned respect. That's not who you are. You're a callow kid with a job reading slush for a pretentious irrelevant "poetry" magazine [Poetry, not Bookslut]. You sought an interview from me, I was kind enough to grant it, and now you're being an asshole by exercising some grotesquely deluded misapprehension that your role in this includes some call to fucking critically assess my skills. Also, it was not twenty but ten years I spent with bands.

Kudos to Travis for running it anyway. I would have simply cried like a girl.

While We're On the Subject

Speaking of the Tribune, how's this for an artful bit of blame-shifting?

"Problems Are Scooping Tribune: Biggest Is at Los Angeles Times, Which Hasn't Delivered On Profit Expectations," reads the Wall Street Journal headline. TribCo's got troubles, writes Joseph Hallinan. "But some of Tribune's biggest problems stem from properties it acquired from Times Mirror. The biggest, the Los Angeles Times, failed to produce expected profit, despite years of investment and cost cutting. Amid the tough times, publisher John Puerner this week said he would step down in May to take what he called 'a self-imposed career break.'"

Hmmm. Yeah, the L.A. Times is tanking. But that's not the Tribune Company's fault! Let's blame that on Puerner--a 26-year Tribune Co. veteran.

Jim Warren, Suddenly Camera-Shy


I consider Jim Warren, my former boss at the Chicago Tribune, a friend. He's been wonderful to me and my wife, and he's an all-around stand-up guy at a company and newspaper populated by too many, er, stand-down guys?

Also, he seems to believe that he will die if he does not appear on television at least weekly. Jim, can you come down to Channel 2's studios for our 6 a.m. Sunday show that will reach maybe 25,000 homes if we're lucky? No problem. Hey Jim, you wanna drive all the way across town from the Tribune Tower to the far northwest side at 5:30 p.m. on the day before Thanksgiving to be on the local PBS newscast? I'm there.

Of course, Jim is a national figure as well, owing to his residency on the McLaughlin Group, his frequent appearances on MSNBC, and his gig in the morning doing analysis for Fox News. In fact, a quickie Nexis search shows him making about 38 appearances in the last 90 days on MSNBC's "Hardball," "Countdown," and "Scarborough Country," Fox News Channel, CNN's "American Morning," CNBC's "Kudlow and Cramer," and, apparently, "Good Day L.A." Topics of discussion included Terri Schiavo, the Lefkow murders, and Rudi Giuliani's chances in 2008. Jim Warren will show up at your doorstep if you have a professional grade video camera and some studio lights handy.

All of which is fine, and adds to his eccentric charm. But Jim, come on. This is from an NYU J-School paper account of a visit by Warren, his lovely wife Cornelia, and their son Blair.

Washington, in Warren's opinion, is a small, self-absorbed town where only the big, obvious political issues receive coverage, while the smaller agencies that actually affect most peoples' lives are largely ignored. The Washington media are one "big echo chamber," he said. Instead of doing shoe-leather reporting, running around the FDA or the HSS and putting in the extra legwork needed to really run the truth to ground, said Warren, too many reporters sleepwalk through the role of "White House Guy" going to dinner parties, being herded into planes like cattle, and getting fed lies by the White House press secretary.

In such a culture, said Warren, some reporters succumb to the temptation of becoming celebrity pundits, appearing frequently on TV news talk shows.

"I did a ton of TV shows, in part because I liked it and because it was clear that it is the coin of the realm there, especially if you work for an out-of-town newspaper,"€ he said. "Part of my frustration came from the fact that people got to know me for being on TV instead of what I was writing about."


Echo chamber, Jim? You helped build it. You did a ton of TV shows? So I guess that jacket and set of TV-friendly ties perpetually hanging in your office are there as reminders of your lost years in TV-land?

Somewhere, there are some very confused cable talk-show bookers right now, wondering if you are the same person they have on speed-dial.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Truth in Television Coverage

Lines like these, from her report on F/X chief Peter Liguori replacing Gail Berman as president of Fox, are why we love Lisa DeMoraes:

Liguori is joining Fox at the best of all possible times. Eight weeks before the network is scheduled to unveil its prime-time lineup, Berman already has ordered series pilots for next season. Liguori will get to take all of the credit for the successes, and none of the blame for the failures.

It's like a regular news story, but true. DeMoraes always wears oversized Jackie-O sunglasses during executive press conferences at the Television Critics Association press tour; it took me a while to figure out that it's because the executives were uncomfortable telling lies under her direct astringent gaze. And what's the point of press tour if the TV execs don't lie to you?

The Washington Post has generously provided and RSS feed of her column. Use it.

Slow Ride to Heaven

Rod Price, founding member and guitarist for Foghat, has died. Take it easy, Rod.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Jerry Springer to Air America Radio

I don't know what to say. Jerry Springer is launching a morning-drive show on Air America Radio, says AAR COO Carl Ginsberg. Springer will replace Unfiltered, Lizz Winstead's former show.

Ginsberg said Springer starts April 1, so this could conceivably be an early April Fool's joke. But he sounded serious to me. And Al Franken confirmed, unless he's in on the joke:

"Hubert Humphrey used to say, 'A society is judged best by how it treats people in the morning of life, the dusk--or maybe sunset--of life, and in the shadows of life,'" Franken told me. "Jerry has seen people in the shadows of life. He's seen the dwarf being shot from a cannon at county fairs and having affairs with another dwarf. So I think he has a particularly strong understanding of people's troubles."

He said all that with an approximately six-second pause between every fifth word.

Springer currently has a radio show syndicated by Clear Channel.

UPDATE: It's definitely no joke.

Mistah Puerner, He Dead

This graf from James Rainey's story on Los Angeles Times publisher John Puerner's ouster, and his replacement Jeffrey Johnson, ought to strike fear into the heart of Times staffers:

"Born in the Chicago area, Johnson earned his bachelor's degree in accountancy at the University of Illinois and a master's degree in operations management at the University of Chicago."


In other words, to the parochial, insular Babbitts that run the Tribune Company from Michigan Avenue, he's "one of us."

My guess, and it's only a guess, is that Puerner--who has the resume of a Tribune company loyalist--went native, seduced by the glory of all those revenue-neutral Pulitzers, and was unwilling to make his numbers by laying off any more of the folks that won them.

Presumably Johnson will be more accomodating to his old U of I alums. I do know that the Tribune Tower is periodically aghast at how precipitous the circ drop has been at the L.A. Times every time a new batch of internal numbers makes the executive rounds. One of the only comforts these days to Tribune editors--who are facing their own steep reader drop-off--is that the L.A. Times is doing worse.

And compared to the Tribune, which is seen as the model paper in the Tribune Tower, the Times is still vastly overstaffed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Avocet Songs

Again with the EMusic Live--we recorded the Avocet show at Schuba's last night, and this time we actually sold one for $5. Sounds pretty good to me, but you can judge for yourself:

Bridget Cross
The Postcards You Sent From the Side of the Road
Fading Fast

We opened for University, which became my new favorite band when I saw them soundcheck. Five guys who all live in one house, Big Pink-style, and record in the basement. Except the house is in Wauconda, IL, some godforsaken Chicago exurb with vinyl chloride-tainted water that smells like garbage. Go see them Monday night at Schuba's--they're doing a "residency" there all month, playing every Monday night--and buy their records so they can afford to move to a city that doesn't have to deliver bottled water to their doorstep every week.

They sound like Big Star.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Avocet Flies Tonight


For those of you lucky enough to be enjoying the charms of Chicago in March, I will be employing far too many distortion pedals tonight at Schuba's, playing guitar in Avocet (sadly, you won't see me striking my best non-chalantly, vaguely wholesome indie-rock pose on the web site, since the lazy bastards haven't updated it since I joined the band).

Below is an mp3 from Avocet's first and only record, "Gravity Will Take Its Toll," recorded before I joined up by the inestimably brilliant and perplexing Jeff Boyd, who also made the first Cooksie record. Loud guitars make very pretty noise. Enjoy, and stop in if you're around. We go on at 9 p.m. (you know you're too old to be in a rock band when you're relieved to get an early stage time). University headlines.

Avocet: Meridians Fail from "Gravity Will Take Its Toll."

Fucking Communications Commission













Heh. I was looking for a recent FCC indecency ruling and took note of this little irony. You'd be surprised at the filth this agency's been putting on the Internets. "Ass bandit" gets 2,035 results. The headline of this post gets 131,919.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Tom DeLay's Mind: Large and One-Hundred Percent Hobgoblin-Free

No surprise here. Diligence in ensuring that wrongly convicted people don't get executed? Not so much.

Diligence in ensuring that one of your best-polling political issues doesn't die? Damn straight:

Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas and the House majority leader, who is at the center of the Congressional intervention, said on Saturday, "We should investigate every avenue before we take the life of a living human being. That is the least we can do."

Well, I Suppose It Beats a Series of Sharp Pokes In the Eye Until Death

starving

The New York Times has apparently solved the world's hunger problem:

Experts Say Ending Feeding Can Lead to a Gentle Death
By JOHN SCHWARTZ

To many people, death by removing a feeding tube brings to mind the agony of starvation. But medical experts say that the process of dying that begins when food and fluids cease is relatively straightforward, and can cause little discomfort.

"From the data that is available, it is not a horrific thing at all," said Dr. Linda Emanuel, the founder of the Education for Physicians in End-of-Life Care Project at Northwestern University.


Really, it sounds kinda nice, doesn't it?

Friday, March 18, 2005

New York Times Publishing Unprecedented Levels of Bullshit*

To look at this front page New York Times story by Monica Davey, you'd think maybe there is a newsworthy change in the rate of desertion in the U.S. Armed Forces. It's headlined, after all, "Unvolunteering: Troops Improvise To Find Way Out," and starts with two anecdotes about troops deserting or filing as a conscientious objector to avoid going to Iraq.

Uh-oh--the Army's in trouble! Enlistees are talking about shooting themselves in the leg to get out of serving in that hellhole! Put this baby on the front-page.

But wait: "Department of Defense officials say they have seen no increase in those counted as deserters since the war in Iraq began. Since October 2002, about 6,000 soldiers have abandoned their posts for at least 30 days and been counted as deserters.... The figures, Pentagon officials said, suggest that the deserter ranks have actually shrunk since the years just before Sept. 11, 2001."

Now, I'm absolutely confident that the foregoing is a complete lie, and that there is a detectable increase in the desertion rate. But I have zero evidence to support that claim, and neither does Davey, which makes the entire point of her story rather flimsy. She struggles gamely to align the story with the evidence--"One by one, a trickle of soldiers and marines...are seeking ways to get out," and "soldiers, their advocates and lawyers who specialize in military law say they have watched a few service members try ever more unlikely and desperate routes" to avoid serving.

Wow! A trickle of folks are deserting, and a few of them are desperate!

Thank god for Sgt. First Class Tom Ogden, who was willing to claim--in contravention of the only available evidence on the desertion rate--that there is an uptick in folks who cut and run: "There are a lot of people, many more than normal, who are trying to get out now."

So which is it?
*The rate at which the New York Times publishes bullshit has not changed in recent years.

More Genius Moves at CNN

I thought it was a curious decision when I heard last week that Jon "Security Watch" Klein had canned Mike Brooks, CNN's half-analyst, half-correspondent, who served 26 years in the DC Metro police department, ran security for Delta Airlines, and served as a member of the FBI's Terrorism Task Force. If you keep relentlessly and rather awkwardly promoting your network as the "place to go for your security news," don't you want a guy like that around?

The answer is yes, especially when someone shoots up an Atlanta courthouse, which is what happened just days after Brooks got notice that his services would no longer be needed at CNN.

So during the shooting coverage, when he realized that he had just fired someone he suddenly needed very badly--Brooks has some of the best contacts in law enforcement at CNN, and is a regular on-camera presence during daytime coverage anytime anyone shoots anything up--Klein called him up and had a conversation that went something like this, I'm told:

Klein: How badly did we fuck up?

Brooks: Very badly.

The two had lunch on Tuesday, and are negotiating to bring Brooks back, which will likely happen, hopefully with a salary boost.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Sometimes a Story Needs 39 Or So Days to Really Percolate

From the New York Times' Friday front page:

A Haircut in Iraq Can Be the Death of the Barber
By ROBERT F. WORTH

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 17 - It was almost closing time in Sadiq Abdul Hussein's barbershop when a man in a black mask walked in, pulled out a pistol, and began spinning it on his finger, cowboy style.

The gunman was not after government officials or American collaborators. He had come because of the way Mr. Hussein cut hair.

From a February 7 Associated Press story (not online anywhere):

Islamic radicals hunt barbers in Baghdad for giving 'un-Islamic' haircuts
By OMAR SINAN; Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD--Umm Ali says militants killed her son last month for the most unlikely of reasons: He trims men's beards.

In Baghdad's Dora neighborhood, residents say Sunni Muslim extremists have made barbers the new hunted, accusing them of violating a strict reading of Islamic teachings that say men should keep their beards long.

Some extremists also consider Western-style haircuts an offensive symbol of the hated, secularized culture of Europe and the United States....

"He was a haircutter. He only cuts hair," Umm Ali said of her son, Sadiq Abdul Hussein. "He was handsome," she said, gazing at a photo of him.

Hush Up for the Lord



We are in love with this new tactic being employed by the right-to-life protesters who want Terri Schiavo to live a nice, full, bedridden, uncommunicative, food-pumped, coma-striken life blessed by God.

Let's hope this Shut Up for Christ campaign takes off.

Why Maureen Dowd Dreads Halloween



Maureen Dowd dropped in on Craig Ferguson's show last night to continue the ceaseless campaign of flogging her book, and the talk quickly got creepy and personal and kind of sad, thanks to Ferguson's "hey little girl is your daddy home?" interviewing technique.

Ferguson: Do you hate the Bushes?

Dowd: Of course I don't.... I like to save words like hate, revenge, and animosity for my personal life.

Ferguson: That's interesting because I have read in a couple of your columns, you can be quite tough on men. What's wrong?

Dowd: Well, here's the thing. When I was growing up, I had all male interlocking institutions controlling me.... It was just a way of tweaking the oppressors.

Ferguson: Do you find that tweaking the oppressors has damaged your personal life in any way?

Dowd: Well, Craig. Um, it is true that, um, I do worry that men find me scary. I mean I'm not in person--in person I'm a complete ditz. But, um, if they just read it they might be scared.

Ferguson: Do you think men are scared of you?

Dowd: Sometimes. They always have most scary women stories on Halloween and I'm always mentioned.


Aww, what a sweetheart. She sounds lonely. I personally think she should play up the "I've been controlled by all male interlocking institutions all my life" angle. Men really dig that sort of thing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Wolfensohn, Wolfowitz--What's the Difference?

So Paul Wolfowitz goes to the World Bank--"an aggressive move to put the administration's stamp on... the largest source of aid to developing countries, by installing at the bank's helm a leading advocate of the U.S. campaign to spur democracy in the Middle East," according to the Washington Post, and "part of a broader effort by Bush to bring key multinational institutions more in line with U.S. foreign policy goals," according to the Los Angeles Times.

A question: Since when has the president of the World Bank really mattered to anybody aside from 17-year-old Black Brigade anarchists who soak bandanas in their own urine and wear them over their mouths to ward off tear gas fumes and pepper spray?

Isn't this a huge demotion? Unless I'm terribly misinformed and the president of the World Bank gets to invade other countries. Then it's a lateral move, I guess.

UPDATE: No! It's worse than a demotion, as former colleague and longtime drinking partner Jesse Oxfeld points out--it's directly following in the footsteps of the last architect of "failed, quagmire-creating, we're-winning-really-we-are DoD policies." Second time farce.

Phil Rosenthal Makes Huge Mistake

The Sun-Times' talented Phil Rosenthal is hopping across Michigan Ave. to take Jim Kirk's old job as business media columnist. Here's Sun-Times editor John Barron's e-mail breaking the bad news.

From: Barron, John
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 11:09 AM
To: ~Editorial ALL
Subject: Phil Rosenthal

I'm sorry to report that TV Critic Phil Rosenthal is leaving us after a
great 9-year tenure here.

Phil is going to the Tribune where he will soon become Media Columnist for
the Business section.

Our search for a new TV Critic is underway.


I kid! I kid, Phil. The Tribune is an exceedingly pleasant place to work. You'll have a blast.

Something Tells Me Jenna's Kids Won't Grow Up to Be Rabbis


The New York Times catches up with the Roosevelt great-grandkids (one of whom is in rabbinical school), and in doing so sheds new light on a previously unknown phenomenon:

"Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, who has an uncanny likeness to her grandmother Eleanor and is a board member of the March of Dimes, said that Franklin and Eleanor both spurned lives of genteel ease for public service."

It is evidently possible to describe someone as looking like Eleanor Roosevelt without insulting them. Who knew?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

If It Weren't For Him, "The Simpsons" Would Have Been About Twenty Percent Less Funny



Originally uploaded by cooksie.
"Sy Wexler, an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose educational movies -- from 'Squeak the Squirrel' to 'Teeth Are for Life' -- flickered for decades in darkened classrooms around the world, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 88 and lived in Hollywood."

He also made one called, "How A Hamburger Turns Into You."

Monday, March 14, 2005

Sounds Like a Nice Bunch of Folks


Mindless Self Indulgence has written what appears to be the perfect drummer ad, minus, of course, the always-important admonition "No Big Hair." Though there's a song somewhere in "you had better be young cool and styleish."

UPDATE 7/15/05: I've just been informed by a "potentially crazed" Mindless Self Indulgence fan that this ad is perhaps 10 years old, if not older. And now I can't for the life of me remember where I found it. You have my apologies for bringing to your attention an extremely stale--yet still quite amusing--item. Carry on.

And This Is Your Receipt for My Receipt....

MemoryBlog points us to an Associated Press story about the nation's oldest pending FOIA request--San Francisco Chronicle reporter Seth Rosenfeld's inquiry into FBI files on the University of California, which dates back to 1981 and has spawned three lawsuits.

Why the foot-dragging? The AP quotes an FBI flack:

"Basically, the FOIA is a matter between the FBI and Mr. Rosenfeld," she said. "Mr. Rosenfeld could file a request to get further information about his request."


Priceless.

Circle Jerk? Or Maybe Snake-Eating-Itself-Jerk? No--It's Moebius Strip Jerk! Remember Moebius Strips?

I simply have no words. A blogger is live-blogging a public speaking engagement by another blogger.

Cooksie Songs

Cooksie played the Double Door here in Chicago Saturday night, opening for Michael McDermott, and--aside from having to wait through McDermott's, um, rather sentimental set to get paid--it seemed to go pretty well, considering we haven't technically been a working band since July, or thereabouts. At least some folks seemed to like it, and it was definitely the biggest crowd we've ever played for, owing no doubt to McDermott's brooding good looks.

McDermott is one of these hunky sad singer-songwriters who make eyes at the ladies and keep up with what Ryan Adams has been wearing lately. But he's pretty much a genius, because he managed to find hot chicks to play fiddle and bass for him, and they were clearly willing to accomodate him in the wardrobe department. The bass player, a blonde, wore a revealing Catholic school-girl skirt, which led our guitar player to remark: "If she's wearing that skirt to distract from her bad bass playing, she should just take it off."

We opted for the EMusic Live service, an arrangement whereby the club records your set and sells CDs of it immediately after the show. No one bought ours, naturally, not that we would have seen any money anyway--the contract they make you sign is truly evil. But it does us no harm and we get a rather low-quality recording of the show out of it, so what the hell. When we become phenomenally successful and EMusic Live is making millions off that legendary Double Door show, we'll be kicking ourselves.

Anyway, here are a couple tunes--again, the quality ain't great. We did "I Hate the Radio," a song written by Karl Straub of the Graverobbers, who is the great unsung songwriter of the "Americana" scene. My brother Matt, Cooksie's drummer, was the founding drummer of the Graverobbers. "I Hate the Radio" has some of my favorite lines of any pop tune ever:

I hate the radio
It's a phone call from an old girlfriend
Someone you used to like
But now you never wanna see
It's a giant headstone where the music used to be


The other one is a John Cook original--identifiable, as always, by the fact that the first and second verses are lyrically identical--that we've never recorded. Have a listen:

I Hate the Radio
Against the Wall

Recorded live at the Double Door in Chicago, Saturday March 12.

The Timesian Tease

The New York Times' category killer on the feds' use of video news releases yesterday had a distressingly low news-to-word count ratio, but my ears pricked up when I read that some fake news segments "were broadcast in some of nation's largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta."

That's news. Third-ranked hayseed station in Des Moines broadcasts USDA propaganda on a 5 a.m. agricultural show? Mildly interesting, but not too surprising. Network-owned major-market station in Chicago broadcasts video news releases without attribution? That's a story, which is evidently why the Times teased it near the top.

Sadly, a tease is all it was. The major-market allegation is not revisited, and nowhere in the story is any evidence presented of federally produced video news releases being broadcast in New York, Chicago, L.A., Dallas, or Atlanta.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Good Night Small Screen, I'll See You In My Dreams

Below, my farewell message for the newsletter of the Television Critics Association, a group of, by and large, extraordinarily friendly folks who gather twice a year in L.A. for what can only fairly be described as a series of junkets hosted by the networks. Stars are trotted out, food is served, drinks are drunk, executives are schmoozed. It can be pretty shameless. You see members of the fearless press corps--from actual daily newspapers in relatively large cities--asking celebrities for pictures and autographs, and I once saw a reporter for TV Guide actually pitch a Comedy Central executive on a show, about the time travel and the Civil War, as I recall. Sounded pretty funny.

The members who make it all happen generally fall into two camps--those, like me, who recognize it as a bachanal of publicity for the networks but somehow found themselves there again, year after year, and those who honestly think it's important to ask Paula Abdul how she really feels about Simon Cowell. The upside is face-time and gossip-time with the executives, the downside is everything they say is a transparent lie, and it can be quite tiring to mentally translate their words into the precise opposite of what was actually said. Anyway, here's the (slightly edited) goodbye.

To My (former) Fellow TV Hacks:

It is with great sadness that I announce that I shall no longer be joining you on the Press Tour, as I have contracted a painful case of gout from repeated and prolonged exposure to overcreamed coffee, oversauced food, and overserved liquor twice a year. If I am to avoid the amputation of my big toe--the locus of my gout attacks--my physician tells me that I must remain indoors in my underwear and not talk to anybody all day.

Consequently, I have signed on to be a contributing writer to Radar Magazine, and have left the Chicago Tribune's cozy, nurturing environment for the freelance life.

I expect to be writing about many of the same things--media, etc.--so I hope many of us will continue to stay in touch.

I'll leave you with a quote from a recent New York Times story about a rap-feud shooting outside a Manhattan radio station involving 50 Cent that pretty much sums up the last 20 or so months of my life.

"Investigators were having some trouble piecing together exactly what happened because, according to the official, those involved in the incident were not being truthful."


Inflicting Taste in Art

Memphis' Easley McCain Recording, where Pavement, Alex Chilton, Palace Bros., Sonic Youth, Wilco, Guided By Voices and just about every other band you like--as well as some you don't--have spent sweaty hours holed up in underlit rooms making noise, caught fire last week.

The studio was just featured in the November/December '04 issue of Tape Op, including an interview with co-founder Doug Easley, who grew up in Memphis "watching his friend's older brothers playing in the Box Tops."

Easley and McCain moved into the studio, built by the legendary Chips Moman from the ground up--the first such studio in Memphis, as opposed to converted buildings--in 1990. It had a famously sweet echo chamber--a big empty room used to get actual reverb sounds, instead of canned digital effects--which apparently survived the fire, as did the master tapes housed at the studio, according to Done Waiting.

Easley's recording philosophy, according to the Tape Op Q-and-A: "You try to inflict taste in art and good decision in it, you know?" That pretty much sums it up.

Here's hoping they were over-insured, and rebuild fast.

This Correction Was Delayed By Being Really High

A New York Times correction:

An article in The Arts on Feb. 5 about laser light shows that use the music of Pink Floyd included one fad erroneously among those of the early 1970's. While the Rubik's cube was invented in Hungary in 1974, it did not become an international fad until 1980. This correction was delayed by an editing lapse.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Sounds Like Young People Really Are Watching the News

For some reason, no one wants to be in the Army anymore. Actually, the Pentagon knows exactly why: It's the President's masterful stewardship of the economy and the media's obsession with bad news. From the New York Times:

"S. Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command, attributed the decline in February to an improving economy that siphoned off potential soldiers and the news coverage of the violence in Iraq, which so far has claimed about 1,500 American lives."

Well, money is practically sprouting up out of cracks in the sidewalk.

And Smith's analysis displays a surprising sensitivity to epistemological concerns, for a Pentagon type: It's not actually the violence in Iraq that's scaring recruits away, it's the fact that the reporters insist on making folks in the U.S. aware of said violence.

Larry DiRita elaborates:

"I mean, without question, when there's the kind of coverage that there has been about casualties - and we certainly mourn all the casualties, but they are covered, there's prominent media coverage of casualties in Iraq - parents factor those kinds of things in to what they want their children doing."

So I guess if there were some way to frustrate the press' attempts to disseminate casualty statistics, then that might help with recruitment, huh?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Brandine Dowd


They fixed it online, but in my Midwest National edition of the New York Times today, Maureen Dowd's columns begins:

"I went to see the Al Pacino's 'Merchant of Venice' movie the other day."

And them's was putting that Botox all up in their facial parts.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

In Other News, NBC Says "Committed" Is Really Very Funny and Doing Swell, Thanks for Asking

We know you were just dying to find out whether the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that puts on the Oscars and derives 90 percent of it's annual revenue from the Oscar license fee, thought this year's ceremony--which was down three percent from last year in total viewers and 18-to-49-year-olds and was critically panned as one of the more stultifying shows in recent memory--was a smashing success.

The answer is yes. Yes it was.

Hey--Don't 50 Cent and the Game Have Records Out Right About Now?

Number of reporters the Times assigned to cover the assassination of an Iraqi judge and his son? One. Number they put on the 50 Cent v. the Game feud that resulted in gunplay outside the Hot 97 studios in Manhattan on Monday night? Five.

And man were they worth it. If you've ever played that game where you lull yourself to sleep by narrating manufactured rap-world disputes in the institutional, authoritative, and utterly uncomprehending language of a wire service, the Times has caught on. The choicest bits:

The first outbreak of gunfire occurred outside the studio of a radio station, Hot 97, at 395 Hudson Street, near Clarkson Street. Upstairs, 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson III, 28, was speaking on Funkmaster Flex's evening program, repeating his claim that he gave Game, whose real name is Jayceon Taylor, 25, more than a little help on Game's debut album released last month, "The Documentary."

...

About 10 p.m., the police received a call that shots had been fired outside the building. Officers from the Sixth Precinct arrived and found a man from Game's hometown, Compton, Calif., Kevin Reed, 24, kneeling by the curb, directly in front of the lobby entrance, with his hands in the air and his shirt covered with blood, one officer said.

Three other men were standing nearby, all talking on cellphones, the officer said, and they later told the police that they had just been walking by and did not know Mr. Reed. For his part, Mr. Reed, who had been shot in the leg and suffered a graze wound to his side, told the police that he had been seeking an autograph. Mr. Reed later told the police that Game was present during the shooting, a police official said.

...

Besides their career tracks, mentorship under the producer Dr. Dre, gunshot wounds and troubled backgrounds, the two rappers share a publicist, Yvette Gayle. "We have no comment," she said. "No comment at all. Sorry."

...

Investigators were having some trouble piecing together exactly what happened because, according to the official, those involved in the incident were not being truthful.